Thursday, January 7, 2016

Predicting Canada's Next Moves in Mideast

Lots and lots of speculation about what the new Canadian government will contribute to the anti-ISIS mission.  I have speculated much myself.  The Globe and Mail has a nice list of options that have been given to the Prime Minister/Defence Minister/cabinet:
  1. Retaining surveillance and refuelling aircraft in Kuwait;
  2. Sending up to 150 special forces to train Kurdish peshmerga fighters;
  3. Using regular Canadian army trainers for Iraqi security forces;
  4. Training Iraqi troops in nearby Jordan;
  5. Training Iraqi police and increasing humanitarian assistance;
  6. Using elite Joint Task Force 2 commandos in black ops in Iraq and Syria like Canada did in Afghanistan.
The first option, one that I have been promoting, seems to be a done deal as the article suggests, especially this is the one option that the US has specifically requested. 

The second option is somewhat likely, as the Kurdish fighters have been pretty successful.  However, we may be nearing the point in the conflict where the Kurds are not going to be that relevant.  How so?  They are interested in their territory and not much further, and they have been mostly successful at retaking the territory ISIS had grabbed.  So, training more Kurds might be a sympatico kind of thing to do, but it is unlikely to lead to ISIS losing more ground in the future. 

The third option is regular army trainers for the Iraqi forces?  This fits what the Canadians did in Afghanistan, and it is the piece of the puzzle that needs perhaps the most work.  That is, if ISIS is going to be pushed and kept out of Iraq, it is going to be done by the Iraqi security forces.  On the other hand, whatever success the Iraqi forces have hinges on the Iraqi government.  Um, yeah.

The fourth option is training in Jordan?  Safer but seems to add more complexity to the effort.  The forces to be trained reside in Iraq, so moving them to Jordan just seems strange.  So, no on that one.

The fifth is training Iraqi police and humanitarian assistance.  Maybe and yes.  The latter meets the campaign rhetoric quite well.  The former?  So very hard to attain any degree of sustainable success.  Hugely important, but the political context may be even more important for this than for the military.  Hmmm.

Finally, more SOF stuff?  Probably not.  Risky, heaps of potential news stories and fights in Question Period if things go awry.  Plus if this government is shy of combat (despite the fact that every one of these options, including police training, facilitates combat by others), then doing SOF stuff is just too kinetic for them. 

So, my best guess is 1, 2, and 5.  What would I recommend?   1, 3, 5: planes, training and training.  These are where Canada can make significant contributions for the ISIS war and help the allies.  2 is too late, I think.  4 is trying to do the right thing in the wrong way.  6 is just more than this government is going to want to do. 

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